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Version 1.0

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Banded Ground-Cuckoo Neomorphus radiolosus

Janice M. Hughes
Version: 1.0 — Published November 10, 2017

Diet and Foraging


Banded Ground-Cuckoos are primarily insectivorous, and have been observed eating grasshoppers and unidentified insects. Their diet also includes small vertebrates, and some plant material. For example, one individual was observed eating the decaying pulp of a fallen seed (Gustavia dodsonii, Lecythidaceae; Karubian and Carrasco 2008).

Young birds also eat a variety of food types. The food items provided to a nestling in northwestern Ecuador included: invertebrates 54.9% (n = 39): Orthoptera 32.4% (n = 23), Araneae 5.6% (n = 4), Coleoptera 4.2% (n = 3), Lepidoptera 4.2% (n = 3), Oligochatea 4.2% (n = 3), Cicadadae 1.4% (n = 1), unknown arthropods 2.8% (n = 2); vertebrates 16.9% (n = 12): Anurae frogs 11.3% (n = 8), Anolis sp. lizards 4.2% (n = 3), Micrurus sp. coral snake 1.4% (n = 1); and unknown 28.2% (n = 20; Karubian et al. 2007).

Foraging Behavior

Banded Ground-Cuckoos forage on or near the ground. They scan for prey while standing on the ground or on fallen logs, typically raising and lowering their crest rhythmically while they survey the area. They use the same perches frequently as favored viewpoints (López-Lanús et al. 1999).

Their foraging behavior includes short fast sprints along the forest floor punctuated with sudden and abrupt stops, after which they may stand very still for a period of time. They also run and hop up on branches, roots, and small bushes while foraging. They scour leaves and stems of the understory vegetation and the bases of tree trunks for suitable prey. When a prey item is sighted, they rush ahead quickly to capture it. They also perform an excited zig-zag running pattern that disturbs dead leaves on the forest floor (López-Lanús et al. 1999).

Banded Ground-Cuckoos snap their bill frequently while foraging (López-Lanús et al. 1999), and adults often call to one another when they are foraging more than 20 m apart and out of visual contact (Karubian and Carrasco 2008). See Vocalizations.

Like other ground-cuckoos, this species is a known ant-follower that takes advantage of prey flushed by marauding army ant (Eciton sp.) swarms. However, studies have shown that this behavior may not be as obligate as was once thought (e.g., Willis 1982). In Ecuador, only 9.5% of radio-telemetry fixes discovered these cuckoos to be in association with ants at the time (Karubian and Carrasco 2008). Nonetheless, ant-following is a useful foraging strategy, and ground-cuckoos partake as both pairs and individuals in mixed species flocks. In Ecuador, Banded Ground-Cuckoos were observed foraging in a mixed species aggregation composed primarily of Ocellated Antbirds (Phaenostictus mcleannani) with some Plain-brown Woodcreepers (Dendrocincla fuliginosa), Blue-lored Antbirds (Hafferia inmaculata), and Bicolored Antbirds (Gymnopithys bicolor) (López-Lanús et al. 1999). In Colombia, mixed ant-following assemblages included Esmeraldas Antbird (Sipia nigricauda), Bicolored Antbird, Blue-lored Antbird, White-cheeked Antbird, Plain-brown Woodcreeper, Ocellated Antbird, and Checker-throated Antwren (Epinecrophylla fulviventris) (López-Lanús et al. 1999).

Banded Ground-Cuckoos also forage in association with large groups of wild pigs, such as Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu; López-Lanús et al. 1999). In fact, a traditional name for this cuckoo in Ecuador is sainero, which means companion of wild pigs (saíno or sajino; Hartert 1898). It is possible that they may follow other appropriate mammals that disturb the forest floor as they walk; Banded Ground-Cuckoos were observed foraging behind a group of four cattle that had escaped from a farm and were traveling through the forest on a narrow path (López-Lanús et al. 1999).

Some studies suggest that they may also use the trackways of other terrestrial mammals, including Spotted Paca (Cuniculus paca), South American Coati (Nasua nasua), and Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus; Martínez-Gómez et al. 2013), perhaps to facilitate their locomotion through the forest.

Recommended Citation

Hughes, J. M. (2017). Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.bagcuc1.01